Applying the Multilevel Framework of Discourse Comprehension To Evaluate the Text Characteristics of General Chemistry Textbooks



Prior chemistry education research has demonstrated a relationship between student reading skill and general chemistry course performance. In addition to student characteristics, however, the qualities of the learning materials with which students interact also impact student learning. For example, low-knowledge students benefit from texts that explicitly state relationships between ideas, namely, those that possess high cohesion. Such texts limit the number of inferences a student must draw: a practice crucial for students lacking the requisite prior knowledge to fill in conceptual gaps. In this study, five best-selling general chemistry texts were analyzed using Coh-Metrix, a tool created to measure the linguistic characteristics of discourse and text. Our results constitute a survey of five measures of text difficulty: narrativity, syntactic simplicity, word concreteness, referential cohesion, and deep cohesion. Statistically significant differences were found when comparing the cohesion of the chemistry texts. Therefore, some texts may be more optimal for low-knowledge students than the others. In addition, four of the five texts had an optimal distribution of cohesion. This work also demonstrates the utility of Coh-Metrix as a tool that instructors can use to assess the appropriateness of learning materials for students based on their reading skill and prior chemistry knowledge.



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Journal of Chemical Education


American Chemical Society

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